I’m having a moment with cooked greens. I know, this is thrilling news, right? I’ve put cooked kale in my mashed potatoes, and now I’m sautéing collard greens for every dinner.
These collards are a little garlicky, a little lemony, and seriously irresistible. They’re the perfect quick and healthy side dish, and they’re exactly what I’m craving as we get a taste of spring weather.
You might associate collard greens with West African cuisine (I put collards in my peanut soup). Maybe you have tried Southern collard greens, which are slow-cooked with bacon or the like. Southern-style collard greens were inherited from Africa, and so were Brazilian collard greens, called “couve à mineira.”
I cooked these collards greens in the Brazilian style—quickly in hot oil, with some garlic and chili flakes. In Brazil, these collards frequently accompany the national dish, called “feijoada,” which is a rich black bean stew cooked with pork, and rice on the side. If you’re vegetarian or vegan, take note that these collard greens would go great with black beans and rice.
Now that our brief history lesson is complete, want to learn how to make this delicious side dish?
How to Cook Brazilian Collard Greens
My friend Matt introduced me to this cooking style years ago. I think it makes the best collard greens! Here’s how to do it:
- Cut the thick central ribs out of the collard greens, and stack the leaves on top of one another. Starting at one end, roll them up into a cigar-liked shape, then slice across the roll to make skinny rolls of collard strips. Use a sharp chef’s knife for this, and make your slices as thin as possible—ideally about 1/8-inch wide. Give the collards a few extra chops to break them apart.
- Warm a large, heavy-bottom skillet (cast iron is great) over medium-high heat. Add a generous drizzle of olive oil (the oil will later help your body absorb the nutrients in the greens). Then add the greens and some salt. Give the greens a good stir so they’re all lightly shimmering from the oil and turning darker green.
- Let the greens cook against the pan in 30-second intervals, stirring in between. Thanks to the hot oil in the hot pan, some of the collards will eventually develop crisp, browned edges—these taste so good!
- Once you see a little browning action, add the garlic and red pepper flakes. I suggest adding the garlic at this point, rather than before, because otherwise it’ll burn by the time your collards are done.
- Transfer the collards to plates so they stop cooking. Serve with a wedge of lemon, and you’re done.
How to Serve Brazilian Collard Greens
Honestly, the flavors in these collard greens would go well with almost any hearty main dish. Here are some ideas:
- Thanks to the lemon and garlic, these greens taste Mediterranean. Serve them with pasta, lasagna, or other Italian/Greek entrées. Here’s a simple spaghetti dish with these collards.
- As I mentioned, these collard greens go great with cooked black beans and rice.
- Take inspiration from West African cuisine and add chopped peanuts.
Change It Up
Kale is a great substitute for the collard greens, if you can’t find collards or have an extra bunch of kale.
These quick-cooked collard greens are also surprisingly fantastic with Asian flavors. If you’ve ever made my kale fried rice, you might appreciate this idea because kale and collards are similar greens.
For an Asian spin, you can simply reduce the salt (we’re adding salty sauce later) and substitute 1/2 teaspoon grated ginger for the garlic. Once the collards are done cooking, add a drizzle of store-bought teriyaki sauce to the pan, or add 1 teaspoon tamari or other soy sauce and 1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil. (Skip the lemon.) So good.
Looking for more simple, healthy side dishes? Here are a few of my favorites:
- Greek Broccoli Salad
- Celery Salad with Dates, Almonds and Parmesan
- Gaby’s Cucumber Salad
- Parmesan Roasted Broccoli with Balsamic Drizzle
Please let me know how these collards turn out for you in the comments! Cooked greens can be surprisingly addictive.
Quick Collard Greens
- Prep Time: 8 minutes
- Cook Time: 7 minutes
- Total Time: 15 minutes
- Yield: 2 servings 1x
- Category: Side dish
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Brazilian
These collard greens are quickly cooked in olive oil and finished with a squeeze of lemon juice. You’re going to love these healthy, vegetarian collards! Recipe yields 2 side servings. To make multiples, simply repeat the ingredients and instructions below (cook each batch separately for best results).
- 1 large bunch (about 10 ounces) collard greens
- 1 ½ tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 2 medium cloves garlic, pressed or minced
- Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional, scale back or omit if sensitive to spice)
- A couple lemon wedges, for serving
- To prepare the collards: Cut out the thick center rib out of each collard green. Stack the rib-less greens and roll them up into a cigar-like shape. Slice over the “cigar” as thinly as possible (⅛″ to ¼″) to make long strands. Shake up the greens and give them a few chops so the strands aren’t so long.
- Heat a large, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat, then add the olive oil. Once the oil is shimmering, add all of the collard greens and the salt.
- Stir until all of the greens are lightly coated in oil, then let them cook for about 30 seconds before stirring again. Continue stirring in 30-second intervals until the greens are wilted, dark green, and some are starting to turn browns on the edges (this is delicious). This will take between 3 to 6 minutes.
- Once the collards are just about done, add the garlic and red pepper flakes (if using). Stir to break up the garlic and cook until it’s fragrant, about 30 seconds. Remove the pan from the heat.
- Immediately divide the cooked collards onto plates, and serve with a lemon wedge each.
Recipe adapted from my lemony collard greens pasta.